Pelvic floor exercises are an important part of your fitness program. The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles stretching across the floor of the pelvis. Attaching to your pubic bone at the front, the pelvic floor muscles stretch across the floor of your pelvis and attach to the coccyx (the tail at the end of your spine) at the back. Openings from your uterus, bladder and bowels all pass through your pelvic floor. Doing pelvic floor exercises helps strengthen your pelvic floor and prevent problems such as urinary incontinence. Here are some instructions and tips on how to perform excellent pelvic floor muscle exercises:
- Try to keep the buttocks relaxed (sometimes these can squeeze involuntary as a way of keeping the pelvic floor lifted). Avoid clenching!
- Make sure the muscles around your middle are relaxed and not contracted. Sucking in our tummies will also bear down on the pelvic floor, making it much more difficult or impossible to draw it up.
- Breathe! The importance of breathing cannot be stressed enough! Holding your breath (probably because you are concentrating!) will bear down on the pelvic floor, even when you think you are pulling it up. Remember this tip for all exercises!
- Start the contraction by pulling tightly closed the muscles around the back passage. Exactly like when you want to break wind in an inappropriate setting! And draw the pelvic floor up and to the front. Imagine that if you were sitting on a delicate silk scarf, your pelvic floor would delicately lift it up and within.
- Allow the pelvic floor to descend back down. I like to use the image of a flower opening its petals. Always be aware when you are bearing down or straining on your pelvic floor and avoid this always.
- Your pelvic floor is like any other muscle in your body: it needs different types of training for different uses. Practice your sprint exercises (quick, fast, grabby contractions)– these are handy for sneezes and coughs; but you also need to practice endurance—for the times when you need to hold on. These can be practiced by holding up your pelvic floor and counting slowly and being aware of how many seconds you can hold your pelvic floor up before you feel your buttocks clench, or you start holding your breath or it simply fades away. Working on your PB (Personal Best) and maintaining a hold of 8–10 seconds is a fantastic goal to work towards.
- Your pelvic floor muscle responds really well to regular training, little by little —you can often feel improvement over just a few weeks. But unfortunately the opposite is also true: without practicing your exercises it can become weak again and cause you to leak again. These exercises are for life!
- Your pelvic floor loves a challenge! Start to include it in your usual exercise routine. It may mean that you perform less reps and require much more concentration—but your hard work will be rewarded!
- Your Grandmother loved you having good posture and so does your pelvic floor. Holding your body upright will not only allow the pelvic floor to function better, but you will be able to breathe better, and in turn you will look and feel better! This is also important while performing exercises. Posture counts as an exercise!
- If you still don’t feel like you are doing it properly, or you continue to leak or feel any heaviness in the vaginal area… don’t wait! Book yourself in to a women’s health physiotherapist who specialises in this area. You can get a referral from your GP. Continence pads do not have to be a permanent item on your shopping list!
All of this information just might seem like too much hard work, especially if you only leak a little bit or occasionally. But possessing a strong pelvic floor really can have some fantastic side effects. That flat belly that you have been lusting after since the birth of your child is achievable. Contracting the pelvic floor first will help contract those deep core muscles that your group fitness instructor or personal trainer is always reminding you about.
A strong pelvic floor will increase your sexual satisfaction, giving you stronger orgasms and also increasing your partner’s pleasure as well.
Not leaking urine every time you exercise may encourage you to exercise more and enjoy it. That will help shed those extra kg’s that have been lurking around your middle.
It is never too late to start, and the benefits are real.
Be part of a new revolution for women. Share the information with your daughters, your mothers and your friends. You may become aware of how many women you know who are suffering in silence, when they really don’t need to be. Visit a physiotherapist who specialises in this area if you are unsure or you don’t see any improvement; often a quick check with Real Time Ultrasound can fine-tune your exercises.